A method of unraveling neural encoding mechanisms

2016

Challenge

A key challenge to understanding how complex behaviors are encoded in the brain is the capability to simultaneously record the activities of large numbers of neurons in deep brain regions with single-neuron resolution in freely behaving animals.

Advance

IRP researchers led by Da-Ting Lin, Ph.D., developed a miniature fluorescent microscope (miniScope) system weighing just 2 grams. Coupled with gradient index (GRIN) lenses, the miniScope allows researchers to record the calcium activities of hundreds of neurons simultaneously in freely behaving mice, with single neuron resolution. They also showed that the recorded neural activities can be used to accurately predict mouse behavior variables, such as locomotion velocities.

Impact

The team’s deep-brain optical imaging method, combined with advanced computational analysis, will help researchers unravel neural encoding mechanisms underlying normal brain functions, as well as in various brain disorders. Further, their techniques may pave the way for identifying novel therapeutic strategies that could lead to the development of effective treatments for psychiatric disorders, such as substance abuse.

Publications

Barbera G, Liang B, Zhang LF, Gerfen CR, Culurciello E, Chen R, Li Y, Lin DT. (2016). Spatially Compact Neural Clusters In The Dorsal Striatum Encode Locomotion Relevant Information. Neuron. 92(1):202-213.